Pair rescued from freezing cold Chippenham river
The rescue team (in the water), firefighters Dave Bishop and Nick Ratcliffe; back row, Chippenham fire crew manager Rob Evans, left, and watch manager Steve Lodge; front row, from left, Sgt Louis McCoy, PCSO Ali Duncan and PCSO Lil Duncan
Two people were pulled out of the River Avon in a dramatic late-night rescue in Chippenham on Monday.
Police and fire crews searched the pitch black river after a 999 call and found a 57-year-old man face down in the water and a 48-year-old woman clinging to the bank. They had spent at least 20 minutes in the bitterly cold river in temperatures of about -3C.
The woman had slipped and fallen while walking at about 9pm from the town centre towards the blue bridge leading to Baydon’s Lane. She was unable to get back up the steep and muddy embankment.
The man she was with called 999 before jumping in but he also got into difficulties.
Without an exact location, the crews had to walk along the river using a thermal imaging camera to search for body heat.
They found the pair close to the pitch and putt course, at the other side of Monkton Park from where their search began.
Police officers jumped in and held their heads above water, before being assisted by four members of Chippenham fire station’s water rescue team.
Sergeant Louis McCoy said: “We heard the man shouting for help. We threw a life aid to the woman but the man was face down. We stripped down to T-shirts and shorts and waded in.”
The water rescuers, wearing dry suits, dropped down from the steep bank and lifted the casualties up, with people on the bank helping to pull them out.
Firefighters carried them to waiting ambulances. The man was drifting in and out of consciousness.
Watch manager Steve Lodge said: “It was -6C with the wind chill factor. Another five or ten minutes and it could have been a very different story.”
Sgt McCoy said the man’s condition meant both paramedics were needed in the back of one of the ambulances, so he drove it. One casualty was taken to the Great Western Hospital, Swindon, and the other to the Royal United Hospital, Bath, with suspected hypothermia.
Both have since been said to be doing well